Monday, November 10, 2008

A little history of the world by E.H. Gombrich

I just finished reading "A little history of the world" by E.H. Gombrich. Gombrich, then an unemployed Viennese art history graduate, wrote the book in six weeks during 1935. The book was spellbinding, I finished it in a day.

"A little history of the world" was written for young people but it's a book anyone can enjoy. One nice aspect is how it links events through history, eg it explains Bismark's role in German history in the context of Maria Theresa's social reforms in Austria and Karl Marx. While written for young people, it doesn't talk down to them and raises important social questions for us all. The book is short so it's not detailed and it mostly describes European history, but that's its objective. Finally, Gombrich's belief in human Enlightenment and faith in humanity is refreshing.

At the end, Gombrich describes history as a river, we are viewing the river from an airplane, we come closer to the water and see millions of shimmering white bubbles come to the surface and then vanish in time ...

We are like that. Each one of us no more than a tiny glimmering thing, a sparkling droplet on the waves of time which flow past beneath us into an unknown, misty future. We leap up, look around us and, before we know it, we vanish again. ... And what we call our fate is no more than our struggle in that great multitude of droplets in the rise and fall of one wave. But we must make use of that moment. It is worth the effort.

No comments: